Should criminals be allowed to vote?

October 12, 2012 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: news, Voting.

A HuffingtonPost article this week by , States Deny Millions Of Ex-Felons Voting Rights, examines the idea that people convicted of a serious crime are relieved of their right to vote as part of their punishment. It says, in part:

Four states permanently disenfranchise ex-felons. In Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia, it takes a decree by the governor or a clemency board to restore a person’s voting rights, and only after a predetermined waiting period and all fines and fees are paid can an individual submit an application.

In Virginia, that waiting period is two years. In Florida, non-violent felons must wait five years before applying for reinstatement; violent felons must wait seven years.

Seven other states — Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming — allow some with felony convictions to vote after they are released from supervision. In Arizona, for example, one is not permanently disenfranchised until that person has committed two or more felonies, after which voting rights can only be regained through a pardon or restoration by a judge.

The personal and political impact of such disenfranchisement can be enormous, voting rights advocates say, as whole masses are swept off the voting rolls or prevented from participating in the political process, particularly in battleground states or in states where control of the legislature is tenuous.

This idea of denying people who have been convicted of crimes the right to vote has been debated for a couple of centuries now. It is viewed by many as retribution for an act against society. Should it be forever?

Jane Burleson, the grand marshal of the great Washington suffrage parade of 1913, was convicted of murdering her ex-husband’s second wife and served several years in prison before returning to her native state of Texas to live out her life. She died in the 1950s. As a convicted felon, she could not vote.

Below, a suffragist is arrested in 1917 for picketing the White House.

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